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For only £10 a year, you can become a Friend and come along to our talks, join us on trips out to places like The Royal Academy and Pallant House Gallery, there's always something going on. To become a Friend or find out more about us, go to the website www.friendsofsmag.org

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Diana Dors Sculpture Joins the Swindon Collection

I happened to be visiting the museum on the day Enid Mitchell was being photographed in the museum for this story about her Diana Dors bronze sculpture, I took these photos in the museum:

 Below Enid Mitchell with the sculpture:


 I  copied information on Enid Mitchell and the Diana Dors sculpture from the museum's website
It appears below:
Diana Dors sculpture 1

New home in Swindon for Diana Dors

''A bronze sculpture of Diana Dors has been given a new and permanent home at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Bath Road, the very same road where the star went to school.
It was made by artist Enid Mitchell, who became a great fan of the actress after seeing her only performance on the stage of the Wyvern Theatre. Enid remembers the flamboyant star singing ‘Hey Big Spender’ while dressed in a black kaftan, and was inspired to create the sculpture in 1988, four years after Diana Dors’ death, when she realised that Swindon had no memorial to one of its most famous daughters.
When Enid decided to make the bronze she had to appeal for the money to pay for it on a television news programme, which proved successful after a property developer came forward. She then created the sculpture from memory and photographs.
The work was unveiled at the Wyvern Theatre in 1988 and was on display in the foyer for many years. In 2013 it went to the Central Library until being re-housed as part of the Museum and Art Gallery’s Swindon Collection, which holds objects relating to the history and development of the town.
Enid Mitchell was born in the East End of London but has lived and worked in Swindon since the 1970s. During her career, she has made sculpture and ceramics of many famous and notable people.
Stefanie Vincent, the Collections Manager at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery said: “It’s very fitting that this sculpture of Diana Dors is now part of the Swindon Collection. It is now only a short distance from where the young Diana Fluck, as she then was, was educated for a time at The Selwood School.
“It’s easy to forget just how big a star she was in her heyday, and the sculpture captures her at that time in her life. Her story is a classic example of triumph and tragedy, and she was still relatively young when she died of cancer at the age of just 52.”''


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Madeleine Emerald- Thiele on Pre Raphaelite Angels on High

Madeleine Emerald-Thiele who describes herself on Twitter as providing: 'Victorianist musings on Pre-Raphaelite Art & Angels, & other stuff in between', gave us a fascinating talk on the painted ceiling at St.John's Church, Hoxton, London, considering whether they should be considered as part of the pre-Raphaelie tradition.Here's the outside of the beautiful building:
The ceiling was restored 20 years ago, and is already showing signs of neglect, and needs further work doing to protect the paintings on the ceiling, strangely there's little reference to the ceiling from a quick internet search.
Here's the ceiling:

Madeleine also considered the role of angels elsewhere in pre Raphaelite painting, sitting at the side, I got very poor photos of her angels:


The talk was very well attended
 and we followed up with mince pies and drinks
And Madeleine stayed behind to chat to people about her research and ideas about angels.
It was a lovely evening, apologies for lack of detail, I didn't take notes.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

The Cricklade Pottery

This beautiful small book contains three chapters by Mike Yates, and one by Ivan Martin extracted from the article he wrote for Pottery Quarterly in the summer of 1957. It's a fascinating account of potters, and takes us back to what is now a bygone age many would like to revive, when objects are valued and enjoyed for their own sake, not jettisoned with the other household accessories as fashions change. It mainly chronicles the Cricklade pottery which was in production from 1957-75.
 The book starts with this wonderful perspective on pottery and potters:
'It should not be thought that the potter's work is primitive and crude because his materials are rough and unrefined. Pottery has been the representative art of the most sensitive and intellectual races'.
The illustrations show examples of pottery from the Cricklade pottery, and I find myself wondering, after Sophie's talk last Friday if they were made from throwing clay onto a potter's wheel, coiled clay, pinched or cut slabs. Ivan Martin explains in the book that his pots were thrown on a wheel, he used a kick-wheel, the same as Bernard Leach and Michael Cardew
 This is the front cover:
 Back cover:
 And the two central pages

 In the final chapter, Mike brings us up to date with potteries in the area, and ends with another Ivan Martin quote seeing 'a gradual improvement in the aesthetic tastes of the masses'.
These lovely booklets are on sale in the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery shop, I would encourage you to buy one.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Ceramics Lunchtime Talk

I'm really enjoying the free lunchtime talks given by Curator Sophie Cummings at the museum and art gallery on a variety of topics. Last week, Sophie gave an introduction to our ceramics collection. When we arrived, a table was set up with some pieces Sophie wanted to talk about:
 The talk was thought provoking, the three different sorts of jugs on the table were fascinating, I hadn't imagined there was so much diversity in jugs, although I do like jugs and appreciate a variety of shapes and patterns. These three were so different, by Sophie's right hand, a relatively utilitarian jug, in the shape of an inverted helmet compared to the shapely jug with crabs and other animals adorning it. On the right hand side of this photo, there's the third jug with a beautifully coloured abstract pattern on it, and would be quite difficult to use for pouring liquids.
 The other pieces on the table were talked about, with a bit of a dichotomy between objects with a use, and those which were purely decorative, or to be admired.
The Highworth Pot, seen below was also mentioned as an amazing piece of pottery
 We then looked in some of the cabinets, and discussed a recent acquisition, the perfume bottle and stoppers made by Grayson Perry

In the same cabinet sits the Goathead Pot which I love:
Mike Yates sent me the following information about it after I'd expressed an interest in the potter who made it:
''It's made by Laurance Simon, born 1959. She is from New York, but has lived in London for a long, long time. She signs her pots with a hand-written "Laurance" on the base. This is quite obsessed with goats! The V&A have a candle-holder in the form of a goat and I know of other goat-related pieces by her. If you want anymore about her, then please let me know."
I've only touched on a fraction of what Sophie talked about, but really enjoyed it. More talks have been advertised on the museum's website: www.swindonmuseumandartgallery.org.uk where three more are listed for 2016.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Lunchtime Talk on LS Lowry

Sophie Cummings, our Curator, gave a lunch time talk today at 12.30pm on LS Lowry, it's one of a series of talks given by Sophie,  with just a handful of people attending initially, the numbers have increased at each talk, as you will see from the photos, lots of people attended today:

 It was quite hard to get a photograph which included everyone; above Sophie talking beside 'A Procession' which has just returned from 8 months at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath.
Sophie talked about Lowry's life and then focused at length on 'A Procession':
a glorious work, and 'Winter in Pendlebury, Manchester' seen below
which is in fact one and a half paintings because there's one on the reverse side of it which we will see displayed one day soon.
Don't miss the next talk in a week's time  for a 'FREE lunch time talk focusing on our ceramics collection, including an introduction to our most recent acquisitions by Edmund de Waal and Bernard Leach.'




AGM followed Dr Mike Pringle's talk

Last night thirty five of us gathered together for the Friends of Swindon Museum and Art Gallery's AGM at 6.30pm; it was good to see so much support; there was so much going on that it was hard to get through the business in an hour, in fact we over ran, and had less time for chatting and refreshments. There will be minutes, kindly prepared by our secretary, Jane Milner-Barry, but I'll try and summarise what happened at the meeting. We were pleased pass the newly prepared Constitution, albeit with a few minor amendments, written with the help of Mike Bradley who was co-opted onto  the committee because of his expertise in constitution writing. We were then able to vote in members of the committee, including welcoming new members: Mike Bradley, Martin Newman and Ian Wilkins.
I have added extra pages, accessible from  'Pages' on the right hand side, to include my report and other information from the AGM.
We were then pleased to welcome Nicky Alberry, who explained that in September this year, SBC gave the authority for the SM&AG charitable Trust to be formed, Robert Hiscox was been asked to lead the Trust which has two main aims: to take forward the design of the new museum and art gallery, and recruit a director going forward. Lawyers have been appointed and a new charitable constitution has been drawn up. There are 5 members of the Trust at the moment, in addition to Nicky Alberry and Robert Hiscox, there's Joel Joffe, Peter Troughton and Cllr Brian Mattock. The closing date for applying for the job of director of the next HLF bid is 21 December and details appear here.
Communications regarding the newly formed Trust have Nicky admitted been poor, and this will change, a view emphasised by Paddy Bradley. 
Paddy is keen to form a triangular engagement with us, the council and the Trust, which was good news. Joel also spoke passionately about preparing the way for a new HLF bid and looks forward to the time, as we all do, when we have a new museum and art gallery in the cultural quarter in the centre of town.
This left little time for Stef Vincent , Museum Collections Project Manager, to talk about 'The Hand' shown below:
 Research by a student at Cranfield University has shown the hand is human and Egyptian, more on this in 2016.
The picture below shows Stef talking to people about the hand before we began the AGM.
Apologies for the lack of photographs, I was concerned about what was going on.
After the break Dr Mike Pringle gave us a fabulous talk on Richard Jefferies, the importance of his legacy, and the work being done at the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate.
I made a note to read a copy of 'The Story of my Heart', Monty Don's favourite book, and 'After London', Will Self's favourite book. Jefferies had a passion for nature and the environment. His bust is in Salisbury Cathedral, and he is widely celebrated.
After clearing up, Jane and I went to the Plough for a well earned lager:
Thank you to all who came along last night, and engaged with the process.


Thursday, 19 November 2015

Posters for next 2 Events

The last two events of 2015 are the AGM next week starting at 6.30pm, followed by refreshments and a free talk by Dr Mike Pringle at 8pm.
Here's the poster advertising that event:
and on Thursday 10th December a talk by Madeleine Emerald on Pre-Raphaelite Angels on High?
Buying tickets in advance for this talk is advisable.


Rabley Drawing Centre Friends visit us

having had a really wonderful visit to Rabley Drawing Centre on 30 September, we were very pleased to be able to offer refreshments to the Rabley Drawing Centre Friends yesterday. They arrived about 10am and we offered coffee and masses of cake made by the committee:
 Quite a few of our Friends came along as well; proceedings began with a chat by Meryl Ainslie, director of Rabley, followed by a talk by Sophie Cummings, curator of the collection who gave a short history of Swindon and the museum and art gallery
 and then talked about the Going to Town exhibition
she wandered around talking about various aspects and paintings in the exhibition.



I find it hard to delete photos, from the posts, so probably add too many, but like these for different reasons, and think they give a good idea of the atmosphere. After the talk, Sophie gave conducted tours of the stores, I didn't go in there, and photos weren't allowed anyway, but people liked what they had seen in there.
Sue Gray also took some photos and sent these to me:
 Above Meryl talking to Rabley Friends, and below Rosemary Savage chatting
 A good one of Sophie and Meryl

 And this is a clever photo of Sophie taken through the ceramics cabinet
I think there were about 30 people altogether and almost all the cake was eaten after a very cautious start to the cake eating, people quickly began eating it.

Trip to Heelis, National Trust Central Offices

A group of about 20 Friends visited Heelis, the Central Offices of the National Trust on Friday 6 November. I was traveling to St.Ives that day, so was unable to go along; photos are courtesy of Jane Milner-Barry. If anyone has any more photos, then please send them to me and I'll add them to these.


You'll probably recognise a few faces.
Looking through my emails, I discovered these photos from Alex Coppock-Bunce:


 The garden was popular

 I'm unsure whether to keep these in, I don't know what they are.
 I must contact Alex and ask for notes to add to them.